The only spanking I can remember getting happened when I was about ten or eleven. I don’t remember what I was told to do but I know that I considered it beneath me and an encroachment upon my time; time that I intended to fill with riding my minibike or some other worthwhile pursuit. My mom told me I had to do this thing as I was headed toward the back door of our house presumably to pursue one of the other vastly more important things I had on my mind. I remember giving in to what she said I had to do, being unhappy about it and before I got to the door (fatal mistake) saying “Shit!” She caught me on the back step.

My mom employed the tried and tested “hang ‘em up by one arm and paddle with the other hand technique.” Maybe you’re intimately familiar with it but if not, let me describe it for you. These are important details so feel free to take notes if necessary. Grab the child by the wrist, not the hand or arm, as the wrist, being the smallest in circumference, gives you a choke hold on the arm that the child can’t wriggle out of. Always grab the wrist on the arm away from you. Why? Well, grabbing on the arm away from you invariably makes the child turn their rear end toward you and not away from you as they will if you grab the arm nearest you. Then, of course, proceed to flail away several times at the child’s backside. In this instance my mom grabbed my right wrist with her left hand and used her right hand to make her point; that being that we don’t cuss (at least not around our mother and certainly not in the house). I was humiliated and angry about the spanking even though it was only a couple of whacks but I had it coming. I knew better.

I was old enough to know that on the farm if something broke or you hit your thumb with the hammer or whatever happened to inflict pain that a “shit” or a “damnit” was acceptable. Some of our hogs were named “Son of a bitch” but that was around my dad and often in the heat of battle. I don’t recall him ever dropping an f-bomb and he didn’t swear in normal conversation like some of the men I had the occasion to be around. In fact, I recall him making note of the fact that some of these men couldn’t really talk unless every third of fourth word was a cuss word. My mother always said that if you couldn’t express yourself without swearing it was a sign of ignorance and I believe that but I also think the judicious use of cuss words can carry weight.

I have, at times, paused mentally to determine whether or not to use a cuss word to emphasize a point. I know the trade-offs (appearing crass or uncouth versus more educated (thanks mom)) and the risks (offending the listener or putting them off so much that the point is lost because of the offense). I’d like to think I’ve chosen wisely but who knows? There have been times I’ve avoided swearing in conversation for fear of the other person’s response only to have them swear in their reply. And cuss words do have an impact. I can distinctly remember my wife’s late Uncle Charlie explaining how an emphatic reply of “Bullshit!” made an impression in a debate. I agreed with him then as I do today. The peril of course is making them a habit.

Just like those guys my dad used to comment upon, using cuss words can become how we communicate. It becomes a part of your vernacular and to my mom’s point, it’s less taxing on your brain to throw in an expletive than to verbalize just how much something hurt or made you angry. Furthermore, swearing is a bit insidious. I don’t know about you but I tend to pick up accents, speaking cadences and all other nuances of speech from the people I’m around. Swearing is no different. If I’m around people that swear I fall into using the words also. Perhaps this is some deep-rooted need of mine to fit in or a comment on my self-confidence or esteem; I don’t know. What I do know is, it happens and I don’t want to be the person that influences anyone around me to cuss.

So, this Thursday, I’m going to quit swearing. I don’t know how hard this is going to be or how many handyman/DIY projects I may have to avoid. I don’t know if I’ll devolve into the sort of “Christmas Story” rant the father went on when dealing with the furnace. Maybe I’ll achieve a whole other level of verbal expression illustrative of my newfound intelligence (sorry mom, I’m not holding my breath). Whatever the outcome I think it’s a worthwhile resolution and one that will be educational. Wish me luck.

Where do you fall on the whole question of cussing? I’d like to know. If you know someone who might benefit from this discussion, please share this with them.

Like to read more? Click here and you’ll go to my blog’s home page. If you like what you see, please subscribe. Subscribing is free and means you’ll get an email from me on Saturdays with links to that week’s emails. Don’t worry, you won’t get a bunch of spam as I never sell or share emails. Subscribe here.